In a week that saw a total eclipse of the sun in some parts of the world, Andy Murray was today left completely in the shade by Novak Djokovic. The Serb romped into the final of the BNP Paribas Indian Wells Masters with a comprehensive 6-2 6-3 victory.
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At times, particularly in the first set, Murray looked completely in the dark about a workable strategy against the Serb.
The Scot began by reverting to the cat-and-mouse tactics of the pre-Lendl era, but a nervy double fault at 30-30 in his first service game was the catalyst for the first of three first-set breaks against the Brit.
With Djokovic toeing the baseline like a darts player on the oche and Murray scurrying around in the backcourt, the Scot was never in a position to penetrate and he fell to a 5-1 deficit.
The world number one faltered when serving out, but broke again with some exquisite shotmaking to seal the set. Murray had hit only two winners and won just 22% of his first serves.
Anyone looking for a Plan B from Murray in set two was initially going to be disappointed. The world number four persisted with his passive routine until he found himself in a 0-3-sized hole, when he at last began to pound his groundshots and force Djokovic onto the back foot.
At 1-3 down, Murray engineered two break points, but some clutch serving averted the danger. While the Scot was at last going to-to-toe with the eight-time slam winner, the early break was proving significant.
At 5-3, 40-30, Djokovic hit the last of many pinpoint approaches, Murray netted and the agony was over. It was a decent performance by the Serb but, in truth, Murray gave him a significant leg-up, landing only 47% of his first serves and hitting 29 unforced errors.
Djokovic’s stats were solid, but not staggering: he made good on 56% of first serves and racked up 27 unforced errors. Murray has now lost six matches in a row against his Serbian rival and a change of strategy must surely be long overdue.